On July 18th, just before the end of the regular season and the playoffs stage of Season 36, ETF2L announced their plans to delay Season 37 until the end of 2020: in order to make room for the scheduled Highlander season and also the 8th instance of their Nations Cup. Shortly after posting this announcement, there was a reasonable amount of backlash from the community. Players were not only annoyed about the large delay, but also believed that ETF2L is squandering their current opportunity. With lock-down in effect nearly entirely world-wide, many players are stuck at home or have minimized time outside. This could be a golden opportunity for regrowth and repair as older players leave the community.
End of the Year Schedule & Rules Update https://t.co/nCCdAhg0bL— ETF2L (@ETF2L) July 18, 2020
ETF2L quickly posted a follow-up announcement only a day later, feeling the need to clarify their future plans. In short, ETF2L wishes to make room for shorter cups allowing for map and weapon testing, including the community-dubbed “Pro-mod”, which the community has been very vocal about in recent times. ETF2L believes this to be an opportune time to test some of the changes, most notable the scout-speed nerf, which would eliminate the extra speed medics gain by healing scouts.
Many players, both old and new, have been critical of ETF2L's proposed schedule on the teamfortress.tv forums. We decided it would be beneficial to sit down and talk to some of these players, asking them for further insight and what ramifications they feel the proposed schedule could have on TF2 and its eSports scene.
Klassy, the player behind the popular teamfortress.tv thread “Please have S37 in autumn 2020”, was available to answer some questions in regards to the effects the schedule might have, and also the thread itself.
(Photo by Ness "uberchain" Delacroix)
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: So you’re the one who made the extremely popular TFTV thread “Please have S37 in autumn 2020”, which gained a lot of traction over the last few weeks when ETF2L announced they have no plans for another full-length 6s Season in 2020. Was there a reason you decided to go to a 3rd party forum instead of hosting this discussion on ETF2L.org or in their discord?
Klassy: So, personally I learned of the news later than most people, maybe a day or two. During this time my team was already pretty deciding on reforming with our old roster from S32 (although, without Gink who has decided he's done committing to seasons for the foreseeable future) so when we saw the news we instantly viewed it as a poor decision made by the admins. I believe it took me maybe a week of talking to several prem players (both active and inactive) before I came to the conclusion that it was obvious that the majority of the top-level players were greatly opposed to this schedule. I posted it on TFTV and not ETF2L with the intention of reaching out to as many players as possible so making a thread on the forum - which is not just arguably the largest competitive forum but also an intercontinental one - just made the most sense.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: On the thread you also said the old SVIFT roster from Season 32 was planning on making a reappearance next season, but this is all up in the air now because of the big delay. I assume the decision to come back to the scene shortly after stepping down is due to the current lockdown situation?
Klassy: Surprisingly, the lockdown was kind of a non-deciding factor when it came to me deciding to play another season or not. The 2 seasons that I haven't been committing to a team (with the occasional merc-games) made me miss the game again but I was probably never going to join a team that wasn't my last one, so when papi asked if I wanted to play with the old roster, I agreed.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: How do you feel Lockdown affects TF2, and how would you like to see ETF2L take advantage of this?
Klassy: It's obvious that the lockdown has helped the League to some extent and to echo what some players said in the thread; it would be foolish of ETF2L to steer away from their regular schedule when the EU scene is experiencing a small boost in player-numbers. Whether the player-numbers grow or shrink before the next season, both of these possible outcomes would still be a valid reason to not have a longer off-season then usual.
We also reached out toEemes, the Demoman for The Church of Jezunis, who managed to reach the Semi-Finals of S36. He also was able to elaborate on some comments he made on the forums:
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: You’ve been very vocal on how you feel about ETF2L’s decision to delay the next 6s season, quote “The scene has been given an unexpected but welcome boost due to covid. Let's not squander that by taking our foot off the gas.” If delaying 6s could be seen as decelerating, how would you like to see ETF2L ‘accelerate’ their growth?
Eemes: I don't have any particular plan in mind for ETF2L to accelerate its growth; my main concern is that we don't unnecessarily reduce our existing playerbase and current level of interest.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: You’ve also criticised ETF2L for having their priorities out of order, stating “6v6 seasons are the bedrock of competitive TF2”. Do you think ETF2L should switch their focus entirely to 6v6, and how do you think ETF2L should deal with the other events and gamemodes they offer?
Eemes: I'm perfectly happy for there to be a Highlander league. In the past this has never been in conflict with 6s seasons - people could do one or the other, or they could do both. Nor do I have a problem with ETF2L organising other events and gamemodes, as long as they aren't seen as a replacement for full 6v6 seasons. As far as I'm concerned, it should be regular 6v6 seasons first, then if there is spare time/interest there can be supplementary cups.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: You also called ETF2L a “community league”, whilst calling for a community poll to decide what to do next. Do you think a group of top tier players which admins could ask for advice could be a good idea?
Eemes: I think that might be helpful, although I'm not sure it's necessary. The most important thing is for ETF2L to be transparent with their process and to listen to the community as a whole, both in forums like this and with polls
Counou, the winner of the most recent S36, was able to give a particularly interesting insight, as the current champion of ETF2L Premiership.
One of your ETF2L S36 champions, counou (photo by Ness "uberchain" Delacroix)
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: So firstly, congratulations on winning the grand final. It was a really nice comeback story for you guys after qualifying 4th for playoffs.
Counou: Thanks brother, really good feeling to be able to pull off a story like that, especially after how some of our attitudes were after the first 3 weeks, to quote Josh after we lost 3:0 to Faint on product; 'aiight gg season boys'
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: How do you feel about ETF2L’s decision to not have another 6s season until 2021?
Counou: It ain't finalised, had a message that they're making a final decision soon. But if they go through with the planned original delay, words don't describe how silly they are given the current global climate with a pandemic etc. Game’s been on a knife edge for 8 years. We've managed to prevent the final nail in the coffin for so long, so don't slip up now :)
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: But as a team leader, does the idea of a big break like this worry you in regards to players' motivations and willingness to dedicate themselves to another season?
Counou: No doubt, for sure from my pov and papi as the Ascent leaders pov, not having a season could see possibly the 2 best teams not playing all together as the wait may kill all drive to play the game. For me personally, the season is the only defining factor between me playing the game in the next 4 months or not. I'm off to uni so, if there's a season, I'll take my pc, if there isn't I won't.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: Lastly, would you guys turn to some other leagues or events hosted by people other than ETF2L to get some practice in and fill in the gap?
Counou: Probably not? It's not the same, unless it's no medic scout speed then maybe. Cos that's a must have
Rahmed is included in these interviews to give a different perspective, in contrast to the many Premiership players we interviewed, Rahmed is yet to play his first proper season of ETF2L 6s.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: You’re a fairly new player in the scene, who got introduced to the game through attending Insomnia as a volunteer, streaming on twitch, and acting as a producer for TFTV. As a new player to the scene, do you have any feelings regarding the controversy surrounding ETF2L and public outcry against their decision to delay S37?
Rahmed: Honestly, I can sympathise with the public here - I feel like that the season shouldn't have been delayed, since I'm fine with how the meta works currently and I'm annoyed that I can't play my first proper season soon, after longing for one for so long. I see the appeal with using the promod, not so much so with the medic-scout debuff. However, if the delay can cause opportunity for the league and it's players to decide they want to implement the plugins, I think that's still a good idea - it can help make people happier, playing with a more idealistic version of 6's that they want to play
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: As mentioned you were hoping to join a 6s team in ETF2L for the first time next season. Do you think the big delay until the next season will impact your attitude or motivation in any way?
Rahmed: I think it'll motivate me to grind out the game more, as much as I can. I've always been a person looking to improve every aspect of my gameplay, whether it be mechanics, gamesense or even social skills - and this delay gives plenty of time to find friends and develop a strong team. Because of the delay making the season going live during my 2nd year of uni, it will make some commitments difficult (e.g. coordinating scrims/demo reviews), but it's something I'm willing to stick up with - just to play an actual season for once. Making my own mid team for season 37 too, hope it goes well
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: If you could, would you rearrange ETF2L’s current schedule, in order to reduce the delay until the next 6s season?
Rahmed: I would have season 37 start off just as the nation's cup would start their playoffs, around mid-november - and whilst the season progresses, have players who are interested (in the aforementioned plugins/promod) to test them out separately with the league to decide their implementation for season 38. I am still a new player, so this may not work out as intended, but I believe it would make the most number of people happy
And finally, the last player we interviewed: Domo. We were interested in his insight, as the leader and representative of Ascent.EU, champions of S35 and one of the oldest organisations to still be involved with TF2.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: As a player who has made their fair share of high-level teams, do you have any insight as to how such a long break in between seasons could affect team leaders? Or are there any problems you think might arise as a team leader coming into the next season?
Domo: People right now have too much time on their hands and it's not long before life returns to normal for most people. If there's ever a chance to NOT miss a season its right now, just poor timing. I'm not sure if people are going to be demotivated to form teams by the start of next year but it's hard to say. What I can say is nobody cares about cups and playtesting plugins from what I've read and people would much prefer to have a 6s season than a nations cup.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: With such a big-name sponsor like Ascent behind you, is there any pressure to play other events during the long off-season? Or do Ascent take a totally hands-off approach to what the team plays?
Domo: As of late Wyatt has left us to our own devices and as a team and we are currently dead with Papi's Ascent to take over. So no, there isn't much pressure to play other events and no down sides to not playing any time soon from the players perspective. As far as I know the Ascent org hasn't pushed or pressured the sponsored team to play/attend in anything they do not want to, so I don't think there will be this time for the cups that may arise.
Following the idea of the effect this delay and the lock-down situation could have on organisations, we decided to get in touch with Uberchain, the COO of Ascent.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: As COO for Ascent, how do you feel the break until the end of the year will effect Ascent? Things are obviously up in the air with the old Ascent.EU roster not competing next season, but are there any plans to pick up another roster? Do you think dedicating your org to a roster this early before a season is even on the horizon is risky?
Uberchain: With the esports ecosystem containing itself into a bubble that's tumultuous to navigate in during 2020, as well as people within the community prioritizing what they want to do in and out of the game, a lot is up in the air. Many arguments were put forward by the TF2 community, players & viewers alike, on interest & growth that I personally feel have been sound, but Ascent will not push teams or players to represent us in events or leagues unless they can, and unless we can provide them with the resources to do so.
We're grateful to have had Ascent be represented in TF2. Our roots started in 2015 within this game, and we've enjoyed supporting it for that time. In this present moment: if ETF2L have decided to withhold on an entire season, it's uncertain it would be the right choice to make, but with no plans for upcoming LANs, no entrance fees or prize incentives, and everybody figuring out what they want to do, it seems best on our part to let players decide what they want to do too.
We reached out to ETF2L to conduct an interview in regards to the proposed schedule and the current responses we've received, however, ETF2L decided not to participate in an interview.
EDIT: An interview with an ETF2L League Admin was conducted after this article was published
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: Some people, such as Eemes, expressed concerns that the decision to delay S37 until 2021 could reduce the existing playerbase or level of interest for the game. Do you feel this is the case or does ETF2L have a differing opinion?
ETF2L: We talked about the end of the year schedule for quite a while and did have a different opinion at first because we wanted to use the "break" to test out different things such as plugins. But then we received a lot of negative feedback on it and a lot of good points have been made, a lot of people are available due to the lockdown and seem very keen. It was good that we received such a huge amount of feedback and that the community raised their concerns because it gave us a lot of reasons to re-think and re-discuss our schedule. We are still in the process of discussing the details of our next proposal, but I think our opinion overall changed towards the community's opinion. If we ignore their wishes and interest, it could seriously damage our league and we don't wish to push away the existing playerbase.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: Is ETF2L worried at all about a competing league coming to life during this lockdown period, or do you feel comfortable as the de facto standard European league?
ETF2L: No, we are not worried about another competing league coming to life. There haven't been any concerns within our staff team and I'm certain there won't be any, especially after receiving so much feedback on our proposed schedule that gave us every reason to change our plans.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: As players grow older they'll naturally have less time for the game, this lockdown seemed like a golden oppurtunity where people could be able to come back due to large amounts of free time. Does ETF2L believe they're bringing in new players as quickly as older players are leaving? And does ETF2L have any upcoming plans to bring new players into the scene?
ETF2L: I think the ratio between older players leaving and newer players stepping in is rather balanced at the moment. Fresh Meat cups and other smaller competitions and introductory cups seem to be very well received among newer players, so our plan is to regularly host those smaller competitions in the future in order to introduce more players that don't feel comfortable starting out in a regular 6v6 or Highlander season. But we haven't talked about it in depth yet as our current focus is on the upcoming Highlander season, the data retrieval and the schedule for the rest of the year.
TEAMFORTRESS.TV: Finally, is there a chance there could be a 6s season before the end of 2020?
ETF2L: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, the feedback we received was very clear and we had no reason not to change our plans. We are planning to host a season that will be experimental as we would like to test out a few things. We are currently still gathering feedback from premiership players and once we have received and worked through all the input, we will talk about it in depth again and make a final decision. All the details and information will be published in a newspost once we worked through it, so we hope the community will have a little more patience. But there will be a season.
At this point I would like to apologise once more for our lack of communication. We know that things haven't been going very well recently and that we made decisions that many don't agree with. It's been a rough time and we have been very busy with work and real life ourselves. We believe that there is a lot we can work on as a league, especially communication wise, so we appreciate the community's feedback and constructive criticism.
The proposed delay from ETF2L has been reviewed as moderately unpopular within the community , although we hope this insight into the players' minds and those involved with the scene will give a more interesting insight into their feelings, and allow players to inform themselves if ETF2L decides to create a community poll.
Special thanks to Aelkyr for helping with interviews